Printing company information You have this pending commercial printing job coming up for your company’s catalog but you are not sure what to expect when you approach the color printing companies you will be contacting for a printing quote. You do not fully understand the “lingo of printing companies”, nor what you should be expecting from them but also what not to expect. Let’s take a look and see if we can address that here for you.

Printing Company Lingo:

The language of printing is precise and if you want to have a magazine, catalog, book or poster printed exactly to your liking or being done exactly as it was printed before then it is important to not only understand the “lingo” but to convey that same language in the form of the printing company specifications of your choice at all times. Let’s then take a look at some of the main ones:

  • Make sure printer has all of your contact information (I have done many a ghost printing quote).
  • Name the item exactly: is it a book, poster, catalog, magazine or pair of shoes?
  • How many. Pick the quantity you think you need rather than rely on someone who does not understand your business. The quantity can be bracketed for three quantities. Proper etiquette is three and not a dozen. Most folks never think of the fact that quotes take time and cost money to produce.
  • Page count: How many pages from the bind edge as you turn each page? The first page is page one and the second is page 2. Commercial printers do not work from sheets, but from page count and size.
  • Finished size, after trimming and any folding: This is the size of your product as it would be delivered to you.
  • Flat size or printer spread: The open size of your piece or bound size of your book, magazine or catalog.
  • Printer’s spread: If designing two page spreads a “printer’s spread” represents the two pages as they would lay out on a parent sheet and NOT consecutive pages. If you need to construct printer’s spreads, take sheets from a small pad, each sheet representing four pages, fold them and number them based on your final page count. Open each sheet and the numbers will portray the actual printer spread you would construct. Example: if 96 pages, the outer spread would be 96 left and 1 to right. With today’s imposition software at the printing press, do not do spreads. You will only cause confusion.
  • Text paper stock: The paper for the inside of your book or magazine if it differs from the cover stock. Also any stock that is of text weight and not cover weight.
  • Cover paper stock: If a cover is different from the text, then this would be the paper call out and also if printed on any cover stock weight for a non periodical or book.
  • Ink colors: The quantity and type of inks for your catalog, poster, folder etc. 4/4 would mean four colors on each side of the page. This would imply process CMYK inks as if you require Pantone Matching inks, you would need to specify that.
  • Coating: Any coating applied on top of the ink from Varnish/Aqueous (synonymous) or UV.
  • Bleed: A bleed is created by pulling the background or any item in the foreground as well that you want trimmed to the edge, beyond the edge. For sheet fed 1/8” is standard but for web ¼” is.
  • Perfect bind: A glue bind of all of the signatures with a squared back. Commonly called a “soft cover book”, with standard covers between 10-14 pts. A minimum of 1/8” spine is required.
  • Saddle stitch bind: Or stitched, refers to the typical magazine printing bindery with two staples through the center of the book, placed from the outer edge to the inner.

Printing Company Requirements, Expectations and Exclusions:

The requirements set forth in your printing quote by the company stipulate what you must provide in order to have a problem free and quality commercial printing experience. If the customer does not follow these steps which are usually outlined in the printing quote, than you may be liable for additional costs to make the file “output ready” as well as for additional proofing or other processes as a result there from.

  • Output ready disk: This means that the disk or file you upload to the printing company is ready for output by the pre press department and is free of any problems or errors as well as being spell checked.
  • From a professional graphics application: Microsoft Word is not a “professional graphics application” nor is Microsoft Publisher for that matter. Printing companies do not have these programs at pre press and cannot output your files using them.
  • PDF files: Most commercial printing companies today, especially web printers require that you provide a PDF file made to their specifications which they will inform you of in advance. The reason for this is accuracy and ease of work flow at pre press.
  • Shipping: All printers will supply a shipping quote upon request. In every instance it is an estimate and until the job is complete it is not possible to count in every variable that may occur such as “overs”, also called “additionals”, meaning that there was a press over run or sometimes an under run on your printing job.
  • Color: Color on commercial printing presses is usually guaranteed as “pleasing color” and not “exact color” as the variables from one press to next, one paper type to another can vary.  This is even written on the Pantone books, which portray the colors of “exact pre mixed inks”.
  • Cracking of bind edge: Most printers today use a rotary score which has replaced the need to die score a fold line. 100# text weight and up require scoring. Heavy board stocks may require die scoring which is an offline process. Dark inks will exaggerate paper cracking, so if you do not want to pay for die scoring, at least lighten up on the ink colors or do not have inks traverse the spine. Otherwise you can expect to see some cracking on the edge.
  • “Overs”: Most printers, especially the web offset printing companies, will stipulate in their quote that the quantity is subject to overs or unders (undercount) of anywhere from 2-10 percent depending on the type of press and printed material. Book printing usually stipulates ten percent overs, so factor this in among your costs. In any event you are getting product to match the increased price.
  • Shipping: Smaller jobs are carton packed and then packed on pallets if enough cartons for ease of shipping. Most web printers will quote as “skid packed”, so if you need cartons for storage, or if a small booklet, you will need to request a price for carton packing. So you can compare, you can request skid packing with a per thousand price for cartons as a line item extra.
  • Help and guidance: You should expect to be able to talk with an “expert” who understands what you are trying to accomplish and guide you to the best conclusions based on your overall needs. Do not describe your content, how many words, etc. as these are not relevant in printing terms, but your goals for the final printed piece and its cost to you.
  • Design: Most commercial printers are capable of designing your book or magazine and offer an unspoken guarantee: The can design trouble free layouts and create trouble free files, which vexes many designers and can cost you more money at press. Do expect to pay extra for this, as your printing quote will be based on an “output ready disk”.  Other specialties of the printer may include photography, logo and branding as well as direct mail marketing.
  • Mailing: Many printing companies today offer direct mail marketing and fulfillment services. It is more cost effective to you the buyer, to utilize their services as they are not only done inline but without the expense of trucking.

Hopefully this will make your next venture into the world of commercial printing more comfortable for you.

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